Woman finally got used to New Mexico

Don McAlavy

Lula Mae (Ikard) Pack was born at Ninnekay, Okla. She said Ninnekay was a route, not a town, close to Chickasha, which was 15 miles away. The family sometimes left home at 5 a.m. in a wagon wrapped in quilts.
“We would spend the day and shop and get all of our groceries and shoes. That was an exciting time, though,” she said.
“I got married at the age of 15 — not unusual at that time — and I married T. H. Pack whose folks had gone to homestead near Melrose. Getting married was quite an adjustment. I was very sheltered and very timid.”
Obviously, she was a quick learner — she had six kids; three girls and three boys. Her father died when she was just 1 or 2 years old, she said.
“My most embarrassing moment was when my husband and I were going together. I was over at my neighbor’s and I didn’t have on my hose. He came up and I didn’t know how in the world I was going to face him with no hose on. I couldn’t get home to put my hose on to cover up my legs. We didn’t wear overalls, we wore dresses and long stockings. We kept all that covered up.”
She was a good storyteller.
“I have a story to tell about some of our chickens,” she said. “It was in hard times and the neighbors that (were) able to buy 100-pound sacks of sugar, they made moonshine. So one day my husband brought home a lot of, well it was chops; it was chopped-up corn and maize and things. When he wasn’t there I poured it out in the trough for the chickens. We had some nice looking, big, heavy chickens with feathered legs. Later when I looked out, them chickens was laying all over the yard. I thought they was dead, but they wasn’t dead. I thought I was in the dog house now, but them chickens sobered up and got up and went to walking.
“Another time I was caring for my folks’ chickens while they were away, feeding them a jar of home-canned peas that smelled funny to me. The chickens were not as lucky as the first bunch — my peas killed every last one!
“We made the trip from Oklahoma to New Mexico in 1934 in an old Star car. We built a bed on the back of it and covered it with canvas. We had three children at the time. We went to Portales first and farmed a few years and then moved into Portales and T. H. ran a garage. We moved to Melrose in 1936 and T. H. put in a garage there. That was rough and about like the Depression too. The sand blowed and I cried. I wanted to go back to Oklahoma. We didn’t have sandstorms like that in Oklahoma because we had lot of hills and timbers. Those sandstorms would scare me to death.”
Pack said she feared she might die in a Melrose sand storm. If she did die, she said, she wanted to go back to Oklahoma and be buried beside her mother.
“In the late 1920s, and early ’30s my husband did most anything he could find to do and he did a lot of butchering,” Pack said. “He butchered pork. I rendered lard and made my lye soap out of the cracklins. We had rough times and didn’t know any better, but we were happy.
“There was a lot of differences between today’s modern conveniences and what we had while we were growing up and in my early years of marriage. There was no kind of electric things to work with. We had wood stoves. We washed on a rub board with our lye soap; only light was from kerosene lamps. One neighbor couldn’t afford kerosene, I guess. She had grease lights. She would put a pan of grease and then twist the rag and light this rag and it would burn the grease. It would smoke. We weren’t that poor.
“When we got to New Mexico I didn’t know how to cook on a stove in which we were burning cow chips … I cried about that too.
“When I was about to have my last child, Jerry, I wanted the works — a hospital baby. When the time came, my husband and a neighbor headed for Clovis. Jerry was born somewhere about Grier, in the back seat of the neighbor’s car. I am fortunate that all my six children grew up; all three sons were in the wars.
“There has been lots of changes in family life and morals from when I grew up. We really had morals back then.”
Lola Mae Pack, 92, died recently, and was buried at Melrose, as she had finally gotten used to New Mexico and didn’t have to go to Oklahoma for burial.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian.